The next few times you watch someone deliver a presentation, pay attention to how often people say, “Today I want to talk about … ” in the first 30 seconds. Remember what I said in the first post in this series — no one cares what you want to talk about. They care about what you want to accomplish.
Having a clear purpose before you even start preparing will save you a ton of time. Many hours are wasted trying to figure out where some piece of content fits when the real answer is that it fits in a different presentation! My clients tell me that once they truly embrace this idea of “purpose before planning,” they shave their prep time by 30-40 percent.
Okay. Enough about time-saving in preparation. I’m guessing you want to know how to prepare and deliver powerful and engaging presentations. After all, that’s what I promised you with the title of this post!
Think of your presentation as a journey, with purpose as your guide. While purpose is your guide, you are your audience’s guide.
As with any journey, there are multiple elements to it. We have already looked at the benefits of having purpose as your guide as you prepare for the journey. Once you are prepared, there are three more elements of actually going on your journey: the first step, the milestones and the arrival. For each of these aspects, remember your purpose is guiding you as you guide your audience.
1. The First Step
If you really want your audience — whether it’s 6,000 people in an arena or six people in a boardroom — hanging on every word, tell them in the first couple minutes what you will accomplish. Make a bold statement like, “54 minutes from now, my goal is to have you leave this room ready to implement a process that will land you five new clients by the end of the month.”
Of course, if you’re going state your purpose, you’d better be ready to accomplish it.
On a side note, there are certainly times when opening with a story that will lead to your purpose is the right choice. Or even stringing your audience along with them having no idea until the purpose smacks them between the eyes. Situations like these require a lot of skill, planning and practice.
For the scope of this post, my aim is to help you — no matter how skilled a storyteller or speaker you are — connect with your audience in a powerful, engaging way. Creativity is fantastic. But not at the risk of clarity. Clarity trumps creativity every time.
2. The Milestones
Think of your points as milestones. As you walk through your points in your head, come up with a word that identifies what those points are. For example, are they steps? Benefits? Reasons? Risks? Priorities? Questions? Ideas?
The list of possibilities is nearly endless. Choose one word. If you don’t, you will most likely refer to your points as “things.”
- A have several things I want to share with you.
- These five things will make you a better salesperson.
- These are the things that identify an effective manager.
- There are several things we need to address as a team.
Now read each of the four sentences above one more time. This time replace things with discoveries, mindsets, characteristics and obstacles.
Did you notice how different it sounds in your own mind? No one can get excited about things. But revealing discoveries or overcoming obstacles? Sign me up!
3. The Arrival
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone close a presentation with, “Well, that’s all I’ve got. Does anyone have any questions?” [Insert heavy sigh here.]
You have taken your audience — even an audience of one in a sales presentation — on a journey. Remind them of where you are, why you came and how your got there. Look back at the milestones. Celebrate the arrival.
This isn’t only for big-stage keynote presentations either. And it doesn’t have to be overly dramatic. (In fact, many times dramatic would be received as awkward.)
That said, if you’ve shared why your company is making changes, and the positive impact those changes will have, take 1-2 minutes and give the bullet-point version of the changes again as you paint a picture of the future when the benefits have been realized. If you laid out the steps in a new, improved sales process, let them know how they can start using it right away.
Think about your next presentation. Then answer these four questions:
- What is my purpose?
- How can I let my audience know what I will accomplish within the first few minutes?
- What is the one-word hook for my points?
- How can I make my closing strong and clear?
If your preparation answers those four questions, you will be ready to deliver a powerful, engaging presentation that will leave your audience wanting more.
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About the Author
Keith Ferrin is a husband, father, author, speaker, blogger and founder of the Complete Communication System™. When it comes to communication, his passion is helping people prepare more efficiently, deliver more confidently and land messages more effectively. Keith has been blessed to work with everyone from CEOs to entrepreneurs, small business owners to pastors, and sales professionals to first-time authors.